Liberal Op-eds Use Fourth of July to Push Reparations, Slam Founding Fathers

Mount Vernon reenactor (Robert Alexander / Getty)
Robert Alexander / Getty

Many of the nation’s liberal editorial writers seem to have decided in 2022 that the Fourth of July is not worth celebrating — or is best observed by turning America’s independence into an occasional to advance radical left-wing causes.

In the Los Angeles Times, for example, a column declared: “July Fourth is a sham. Only reparations can make it real.”

The column, written by Erika D. Smith, declared:

I’m reminded of the words of abolitionist Frederick Douglass who asked in 1852: “What to the American slave is your Fourth of July?”

Indeed, 170 years later, with half of Congress defending an attempted coup by a former president and his racist mob and the Supreme Court stripping women of rights and threatening to do the same to others, I wonder how any American can celebrate “freedom” without thinking it a sham.

Reparations, by the most basic definition, is government acknowledging it did something wrong and then doing something about it. And that is the truest form of patriotism. A love not just of country but of the people who inhabit it.

Smith’s selective reading of Frederick Douglass is common on the radical left. As Breitbart News noted in 2018, they tend to ignore the rest of the speech, in which Douglass said that the Fourth of July was a “sham” as long as there was still slavery and affirmed that the Declaration of Independence and the principles of the country’s founding were still redemptive:

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.

Those on today’s left continue to feel differently. In the Washington Post, column Paul Waldman declared that “it’s time for us to declare our own independence, from Founding Father fetishism.”

He argues that the original founders of the country would be horrified by the judicial doctrine of originalism, which holds that the Constitution must be interpreted according to the plain meaning of the words at the time they were written. That reading has led to recent decisions such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade (1973).

Waldman sets up a straw man:

This is not a call to repudiate the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and crafted the Constitution. We don’t have to tear down every statue of them (though frankly the statues don’t do anyone much good), or cast them only as villains in our national story.

But we need to liberate ourselves from the toxic belief that those men were perfect in all things, vessels of sacred wisdom that must bind our society today no matter how much damage it might cause.

The doctrine of originalism does not hold that the Founders were perfect. Rather, it simply holds that the mechanism for amending the Constitution remains the way that we should change it — not through the interpretations of individual judges.

Waldman states, incorrectly, that originalism always leads to the policy result that conservatives want, ignoring glaring counterexamples such as Bostock v. Clayton County (2020), in which an originalist decision outlawed workplace discrimination against gay and transgender individuals.

The hostility to the Fourth of July extends beyond the editorial page. On Monday, National Public Radio abandoned its traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence in favor of a panel discussion about the meaning of equality.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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